House seeks to tie Obama's hands on Iran

House lawmakers in both parties are seeking to tie President Obama's hands on negotiations with Iran, The Hill has learned.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said he's gunning for a bipartisan House resolution that would require certain conditions be met for the administration to lift sanctions on Iran.

ADVERTISEMENT
The administration over the weekend appeared close to a deal with Iran on its nuclear program that could have led to the softening of sanctions. The talks had raised criticism from some in Congress and from Israel, which worried it would not force enough requirements on Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

“Our next step will probably be a resolution in the House, which will express the necessity of going into these negotiations with a stronger bargaining position,” Royce said. “And that bargaining position would include additional sanctions.”

Royce offered insights into what those conditions could be during a hearing on Iran earlier in the morning.

“There is growing concern in Congress that the outlines of this agreement do not meet the standards needed to protect the U.S. and our allies,” he said. “Of great concern, the proposal failed to adequately address Iran's heavy water reactor, would allow Iran to continue to enrich uranium and even continue building centrifuges.”

The committee's ranking member, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), said a lower-profile letter to the administration was also a possibility.

He appeared less eager than Royce to buck the administration.

Royce pointed out that the House voted 400-20 in July to slap new sanctions on Iran's energy sector, and would likely do so again if given the chance. House members have grave misgivings about the administration's Iran talks that have only been reinforced by last week's failed attempt at a preliminary deal.

Royce and Engel work closely together on Iran and many other issues — they co-authored the July sanctions bill — but Engel said they had yet to agree on specifics.

“We think it's important that Congress weigh in,” Engel said in a hallway interview.

“We don't feel that we should just sit quietly because we've done our work” by passing the sanctions bill over the summer, he said. “We think that we need to comment on what we think the next step should be, both in terms of what the Senate should do and what negotiations should do.”

He said a resolution was a “possibility.”

“We're not precluding anything,” he said.

— This story was updated at 2:57 p.m.

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill